Tip #1 – Base Training
In order to successfully complete a race (and enjoy the experience) there really is no substitute for laying down a solid foundation of base training in the weeks leading up to the event. The key to base training is not the number of miles that you log in a given week, but rather the distance that you can run during your weekly “long run”. For example, if you normally run six days per week but never exceed 2 miles in a given training session, you will not likely be able to finish a 5K (3.1 miles) comfortably. The better approach, for example, would be to reduce your total training days to four per week. For three of those days, plan to only run 2 miles. On the fourth day increase your normal per session distance by no more than 20%. This will become your long run for the week. Continue to increase the distance of your long run by 15-20% every week until you can comfortably run 3.5-4 miles in a single run. This will all but guarantee that you will be able to complete the race without having to stop or walk part of the distance.
Tip #2 – Improving Your Performance
Let’s say that you are a relatively experienced runner with a few fun runs and races under your belt. You are confident in your ability to easily finish 5k but you still want a challenge. How about training to meet a specific time goal?
Performance (or speed) training is generally reserved for runners who have a certain amount of experience but beginners can also benefit from a well-structured (and safely implemented) speed session in a training week. There are several methods to incorporate speed sessions into your normal training routine. One of the most common methods is adding an interval session to your training week. Interval training can be defined as breaking up the race distance (5k in this case) into short, high intensity segments where you will meet or slightly exceed your goal “race pace”. An example of this would be to run a specified number of 400 meter (m) repetitions on a measured track. Your goal is to maintain your target race pace for each 400m repetition. After each repetition you will slow to a jog and complete a 200m recovery.
You’re probably wondering how you design an interval session for your specific time goal. Well, let’s say that you have want to complete a 5k race in 25 minutes. That means your race pace will be about 8 minutes per mile. Given that there are 1600m per mile, your target time for each 400m interval will be 2 minutes.
Next, determine how many 400m repetitions you should complete in the session. Do this by taking the distance of the 5k (3.1 miles) and breaking it into 400m segments (or laps if the session is performed on a 400m measured track):
5k (5000m) = 12.5 laps
Remember that each 400m lap should be completed in 2 minutes or slightly less. Don’t forget the 200m recovery jog after each lap.
Here is a breakdown of the speed session:
12-15 X 400m repeats on a measured track @ 2 minutes w/200m recovery
And here is how you could incorporate the session into a 4-day training week:
12-15 X 400m